WordPress vs ExpressionEngine

I’ve used WordPress since starting this blog in 2006, but quite a few designers I respect favour ExpressionEngine. So I did a little digging on the pros and cons and found some decent reads.

WordPress ExpressionEngine logo

ExpressionEngine Should Be GNU (and Free?), by Chris Castiglione, 2010 (good comment thread)
ExpressionEngine/WordPress comparison, link points to a balanced comment on EE Insider, 2012
WordPress versus ExpressionEngine and part two, on Lab.SixtyFive, 2011 (switching from WP to EE)
Switching Mindsets: From WordPress to ExpressionEngine, by Mindy Wagner, 2008
ExpressionEngine Designers Questions, answered by Mark Boulton, 2005 (still relevant)
WordPress vs Drupal vs Joomla vs ExpressionEngine, comparison by Paul Kortman, 2011

A few designers using WordPress:

And a few using ExpressionEngine:

I guess the choice depends to an extent on the complexity of the website, who it’s for (personal or client), and the preference of the designer. WordPress works very well for me, but I’d still like to try EE sometime soon on the back of those recommendations.

19 responses

  1. Nice resource. I have been wondering the same thing. Just haven’t taken the time to look into it.

    I would like to get more knowledgeable about Expression Engine and Drupal so I have a few more feathers in my cap.

  2. Thanks David. I’m in the same boat as you. I’ve been using WordPress for around the same length of time, but have seen designers I respect using Expression Engine and have become more curious.

  3. Thanks for including me in the WordPress list! My choice is certainly dictated by my limited coding knowledge (EE feels more techy, but perhaps that’s just my perception) and the ease of use of WP templates and plugins is just brilliant for my needs. No plans to change anytime soon.

  4. Hi David, personally I’ve never heard anything bad about expression engine. I think that what it comes down to is that WordPress is free and that it has a community creating plug-ins and the code snippets which are more readily available.

    Like yourself I’ve been using WordPress for years so I have no reason to change, but I reckon for anybody who is just starting out and doesn’t mind spending a little money, expression engine is a viable option.

  5. Interesting articles! As a developer and designer who has worked with WordPress, Drupal and ExpressionEngine, I’m bemused by people who are rabidly for one platform and rabidly against others. Different tools for different solutions.

    My one true love is definitely ExpressionEngine, though… as long as the project has the budget. Super clean and powerful. It’s such a nice feeling to not have to mess around hacking at template and plugin code all the time, like you do with WordPress and Drupal.

    The licence and plugin costs are a barrier, but developing for EE is so much more time-efficient for us that we add a surcharge for developing for other platforms!

  6. Hi David.
    I’ve used both systems a reasonable amount and think they both have their pros and cons.

    Ultimately though, what I think it really comes down to is the open source vs proprietary debate. I tend to favour open source thinking, but in the case of wordpress have found that so many plugins etc don’t have consistent support so it feels like a gamble building a site using it. For personal sites, this is not so much of an issue, but for clients’ projects, I’m not so sure.

    ExpressionEngine on the other hand, as a paid for system is well supported and as developers can make money from their plugins/modules, etc, they have more of an incentive to build and support with care.

    Ultimately, I believe you get what you pay for.

  7. That’s probably the main deciding factor I read about, Guy — choosing one over the other when it comes to client websites. Someone even talked about their clients who wondered if WordPress was a good enough solution because it was free, with clients preferring to use a proprietary system due to the mindset you mention — getting what you pay for. I’m of the same thinking in most instances.

    I’ve seen WordPress users complain about the install purely because they’ve tacked on so many untrustworthy, bloated plugins. The code breaks when there’s a new WP update, or load times go way up. It’s important to be very selective about choosing what plugins to install, keeping numbers to a minimum, too. I guess most people go through the same learning curve I did.

    Katie, you’re more than welcome, and thanks to everyone else for chipping in.

  8. I use EE for my blog and it’s pretty simple to use. Fortunately, I had a friend set everything up for me though so I didn’t have to do any of the back-end stuff.

  9. A List Apart also uses ExpressionEngine.

    And just to clear up a slight misconception, ExpressionEngine is open source, it’s just commercial open source as opposed to free open source.

  10. I love it how coders and programmers/web designers talk bad about WYSIWYG web design, meanwhile wordpress is one big WYSIWYG program made for lazy web design. I know I will get shot here, but I have worked with a few, including WP and Joomla and they all restrict creativity by getting the designer to take the easy way out. I do prefer WP but future of web design is certainly unknown and WYSIWYG programs are becoming more and more popular. These are all tools, graphics is what counts in any website, clients go for looks and functionality comes first.

  11. I agree with Sean about lazy web design. For the life me I still don’t understand why people like WP — it’s clunky and it’s terrible with deep navigation structure. Mazil makes a good point about matching the right tools to the right project.

    I have been creating websites for almost 20 years (yeah, I’m an old geezer here) and I have started to notice in recent years that many sites are created to conform to the delivery solution — in an odd way this is very similar to the way sites were created in the early to mid-1990’s. I have also noticed that many WP sites lack deep content or have so much content that it’s totally disorganized due to WP lack of extensiblity in regards to navigation.

    Here’s how I go about determining the delivery platform for websites I produce:
    1. Create web page storyboards
    2. Create flow chart of all site pages (including future site pages — at least the ones that are on the table now. We all know there will be future site pages that we haven’t even thought of yet)
    3. Wireframe the site (not necessary if the site is really small, say 15 pages or less)
    4. Review wireframing with client and test with random volunteers if there’s a budget for it
    5. Design the website (Home page and subpage in static PSD)
    6. Get client approval
    7. Design all page variants (eg., ecommerce pages, “print” pages, event pages, etc. in PSD)
    8. Get client approval
    9. Determine the best technical implementation given the client budget and the functionality determined by the previous steps.
    10. Choose CMS (Personally, I find CMSMS to be fantastic for most client sites — it allows for deep navigation which the client can easily change. But I’ve also worked with various other CMS’ including Joomla, Drupal, Sharepoint [which is just awful but if a client already has it you have to work with it], etc.)
    11. Implement
    12. Test
    13. Launch

    NOTE: I work with a backend programmer. I handle everything on the front end and she handles everything on the backend. My goals are related to meeting a client’s marketing, sales and communication needs. The programmer’s goals are related to how to implement in a way that meets the client’s business needs which I have designed for. During design, she and I collaborate to make sure that design is functional and what we call “do-able” given the client budget. Sometimes some functionality needs to be removed due to budget restrictions.

  12. Thanks David for this article! I’m actually a huge fan of EE and although I have built a few sites on WordPress and also Concrete5, I believe the flexibility (from a designer’s point of view) in EE surpasses the others due to its out of the box compatibility. Due to EE not being mainly a “blogging platform” anymore, it allows for flexibility within the actual site. So if your building a blog, or a eCommerce site, or a job searching platform, ExpressionEngine allows for these type of builds from the ground up. I think it is well worth the price range for both myself and my clients who have sometimes wanted to switch from WP to something else.

  13. WordPress will make you the most money and does everything most other CMSes do. 19/20 clients have already heard of WordPress and want it. That alone seals the deal for me.

  14. I’ve use wordpress for about 4 years cuz its free, easy to use an has a large community for supporting you. But i want to try something new, something more faster than wp. A diferent way for adding more functionality to your site without plugins… cuz is going slow.
    I heard that textpattern is the fastest cms on the web. I appreciate if u could make a research like on this article and write an article about textpattern vs wordpress.

  15. The issue with EE is that it was probably the best option some months ago or even 1 year ago. Commercial, great community, great paid plugins.

    But sadly this changed recently. There is no EE community anymore. Their support is expensive, so once you use EE you are on your own as opposed to WordPress where you can find gazillions of online tutorials and communities. Being free, you get help anywhere, as WordPress is widely used.

    EE had a strong and great quality community, the software is great in terms of quality and plugins, and you can get support from a commercial company if you ever need it. But what about the rest of us? Those that need to ask this or that to try to do something on your website?

    The community in EE is more or less non existent. Go to their forums and you will find mostly open topics without a single reply. This is bad, in particular for newbies.

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